Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A thoughtful look at how things could be/should be ....

I’m in a philosophical mood today. It’s overcast and a tad bit rainy so maybe that’s the reason. My thoughts on things started, I do believe, when I woke up. There were snippets of a dream floating around my mind. Lying there, trying to decide whether it was worthwhile getting up or not, I started thinking about the world as it will be when I take over. Do you think the fact that I marked my absentee ballot for the US by-election had something to do with it?

Well, here is what I came up with:

Laws that one could expect in Sheehy’s ‘perfect world’ (these, if you think about them, would cover nearly every situation – no further need for lawyers!):
* Every citizen must be free to perform any act that does not interfere with the same freedom of another.
* No law shall prohibit the performance of any act, which does not damage the physical or economic welfare of another.
* No act shall constitute a violation of a valid law unless there is such damage or immediate present danger of damage resulting from the act.

An explanation of the thought behind the last one: This prohibits any all-encompassing law or ‘the state’ from being above the law. In its fullest sense, this law does away with the old belief that claims the majority is always right. And, most importantly, it identifies any corporate person and gives them no rights other than the rights of any other person. In accordance with this provision, any law that allows corporations to be recognized as a legal entity must be repealed. To this end the primary focus of any corporation must be on benefiting the people it serves, protecting the environment and only then bringing profit to its shareholders.

While on the subject of laws, in this ‘perfect world’ every law/rule/regulation adopted by the governing body must contain a 10-year sunset clause and to be continued must be readopted. Plus, to the end confusion, all laws must be stated in simple language, avoiding all abstractions.

And on the subject things we think we understand:

Ethics is custom not natural law.

Morals are societal approvals not natural law.

Religion and life’s moral and ethical foundation: There are two ways to work toward the development of a practical custom or theory of human relations; work out observed and practical values and philosophies contained within that which is known as the real world, or ‘divine revelation.’ Divine revelation is problematic; no matter which organized religion one follows is it is questionable as each organized religion claims to have the sole truth, the final authority on all ethical questions. Equally questionable is that each claims to the absolute divine right to shape the moral life of the citizenry. A major issue is how the Christian belief system holds that the earth belongs to humans. For Christians, humans are unique among animals because they alone were created in the image of God. It follows, then, that humanity can behave as the lords of creation, treating the earth’s natural wealth and all other animals, as tools put there for the higher achievement of humankind. This simple belief could be the undoing of life on earth as we know it.

While I’m sitting here using up words, let me get onto the subject of how war fits in my perfect world.

War, except when a direct attack on a country, would only be approved by qualified voters. Those qualified to vote are those who would be directly involved in the war and by voting would be automatically registered for the draft.

In my perfect world things would be decidedly different. We live in a democracy, well, yes. But it’s a ‘kind’ of democracy. Like freedom, I doubt there is such a thing as a true democracy. Let’s not go there today. How about a brief discussion on our financial world as I would have it? Okay. Students take out your notebooks and learn how capitalism would work in my world.

I mention this because of a couple quotes I like:

“Capitalism is not a philosophy, it is a mathematical concept. Unrestrained, it is a system where the needs of capital drive government policy, business and society. Consequently, government creates laws to defend the rights of capital before those of social or environmental.”
Darryl Fry

And …

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
John Maynard Keyes
British economist

It’s been said that for poor people money is what’s in their pocket at any given time and for the truly wealthy, money is a way of keeping score. My discussion on money begins with the question; who really has the right to create money. According to the law of most developed countries, only the government has that power, but in the real world others have abrogated that right. For example, think about your favorite mortgage company.

You find the home of your dreams and talk to your friendly mortgage company. After filling out all the paperwork, you are given the keys to your new home. The seller’s bank account is accredited with an agreed amount of money and goes on his merry way, while you begin to save for next month’s mortgage payment. Where did the money come from for the seller? Actually, in today’s world, no money physically changed hands. You, the new owner, agreeing to repay the loan, signed the papers. The mortgage company notified the bank to credit the seller’s account for the correct amount. The property changed hands, with the realtor and everybody collecting their payment, as deposits to their individual accounts, along the way. All completed by way of the paperwork and interbank transactions. No actual money … bills and coins, changing hands.

Now, didn’t someone create money in that transaction? If any actual cash money changed hands, it was the small percentage taken from the buyer’s savings account. The remaining part of the loan came from the bank. Did that institution take cash money from its vaults or simply accredit the seller’s account.

At this point the question of what is money must be answered. My proposal believes that money is “anything given as payment for something of preserved equal value?”

If banks and banking institutions have the power to create money, then where are the controls to protect the economy? Without certain controls, the result is inflation, over-production and unemployment. Governments, to control inflation use the interest rates their money-creating process charges to banks, which uses that to adjust interest rates they charge their customers, which slows or speeds up the flow of cash. It is the interest rate fluctuation that causes market oscillations.

So, in our capitalistic society, is this the only way to make the economy work? I have read of another viewpoint that I will take up and expand upon, as is my habit.

What would our society be like if a bank operated by the government was the only bank? This bank could lend money at interest rates set at levels that automatically adjust to the marketplace. With this power there would no longer be inflation. Each year, the balance of production and purchasing would be brought level. The government would then have complete control of the creation of money and in a very short time interest rates could drop to only a percentage point or two. As the need for money to create an industry and thereby making jobs came up, the government could create the necessary funds. Conversely, as an industry began to exceed its productivity, instead of flooding the market, the bank could, by controlling the money factor, slow production down. The end result of this is as near total employment as is necessary in a world where the benefit of it’s people is paramount, not the growth and advantage of the corporations and other parts of the business community.

One other item in the mix would make employment as drudgery-free as is humanly possible – this is to give every person a guaranteed income from birth. No more homelessness, unemployment, welfare or other such societal blight. If one wanted to work, that person could and thereby earn extra money. Under this plan, the economy would become constant, the population would stabilize and, as the banks continued to control the creation of money, international trade would also level out at a rate fair to everyone. No one country could produce more than it could use or sell to its neighbor.

Money is the key factor holding our present society together, the glue. Until that part of society changes, and a dramatical change it would take, it will continue to be as unwieldily as it is today. If the government had total management of money, all major aspects of commerce would be controllable.

What? You ask about taxes? Not necessary. The people are the government and when the government is able to control money, creating when needed or withholding as necessary to keep the economy stable, there would be no call for the people to shore up the amount of money their government used. The government would be able to simply start up the printing presses.

I am a non-economic minded person and will agree this proposal needs a lot to make it work. To be successful the idea would call for major changes in the thinking of our economists as well as changes in the way politicians did their job. The banking industry would not be very acceptable to this kind of change. Neither would the political world as it is now practiced.

Speaking of politicians, in my “perfect world” these folks, who often claim they are in that business in order to help the world, would only ever benefit from their work to the extent of the average benefit of that of their constituency. This does away with huge salaries, special medical and health benefits, free travel budgets and all other ‘perks’ that go along with the office.

Okay, so to sum up (is that a pun?) Money is anything given as payment for something of preserved equal value. And value is that which is accepted by all parties as being worth a given price. Time for another quote:

“To expose a 4.2 trillion dollar rip-off of the American people by the stockholders of the 1,000 largest corporations over the last 100 years will be a tall order of business.”
Richard Buckminister Fuller

And on the subject of greed: “It has been said that the most important evil is the evil of greed. When all other sins are old, the strongest motive of all, greed, will remain young.”

And that’s it... my perfect world: a society driven by capitalism in its pure form, based on sound philosophical principles and guarded by laws based on accepted moral and ethical standards. Simple and all encompassing; Sheehy’s view of as close to a “perfect world” that man can conceive.

And that just about covers the Sheehy philosophy. You’re welcome.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Comments on becoming invisible

Let’s talk a bit about becoming invisible, shall we?

I don’t know about you way back then but there was a time, probably when the first stages of puberty start kicking in, I found myself wishing, dreaming about things that would make my life wonderful. Two things; 1) finding a pair of glasses that would let me see through everything. You know, like Mary Lou’s Angora sweater. And 2) being able to become invisible. What better way could there be to be able to walk unobtrusively into the girls locker room at the gym and see everything I had questions about? Now remember, this was long before the internet. It was, I hate to admit it, even before Playboy and Penthouse. Yes, there was once a time before all that.

It dawned on me the other day that I had finally reached one of these two goals and I don’t like it. It might have happened when I was getting new glasses but it didn’t. Actually I hadn’t realized it but I have been invisible for some time now. It happens to nearly every man when he reaches a certain age.

It doesn’t seem to happen to men like Paul Newman or Michael Douglas and it probably won’t happen to Tiger Woods either. But to the rest of us, somewhere along about our sixtieth or sixty-fifth birthday we somehow became transparent. Think about it men, except for the cute young woman who cuts our hair or the lovely lass trying to sell us insurance, how long has it been since any female under the age of old has really looked at you and actually seen you? Not just a customer with an open wallet but a man who might be able to fulfill her dreams?

Somehow I have the feeling even the middle aged matron who plays better tennis than I do doesn’t really seen me as a man when we’re across the net from each other. Face it, when a man reaches this age, if a woman is not trying to get into your pocket you don’t exist.

I suppose we can blame Mother Nature for this happening. Oh, not the fact that we male people get to that stage when whatever money we got is more important than anything else we have to offer. No, I’m blaming Ma Nature for making us become ghost-like. It’s one of her great inventions; menopause. Yes, menopause. That time in most womens aging process when they reach that certain age and don’t need or want the favors they teased us men with the previous five decades, more or less. From that event on most, not all I’ll admit, but most find the non-sexual company of their female friends more invigorating than anything thing a man might stand for. So there’s this old man, after all those years of sharing the physical, emotional, mental and, well, physical, aspects of true love all of a sudden shut out.

It's too messy. I’m too hot. Is that all you think about? I doubt there isn’t a man out there in my age group who hasn’t heard those complaints more than a few times.

Well, that is what the good Mother has left us; becoming redundant, unnecessary and almost useless. I know why it happens and men, there isn’t anything that can be done about it. Proof? You want proof? It’s a scientific fact. Scientists have long demonstrated that a species, any species, has one main reason for being; to reproduce. Okay. So our main goal in life is to make sure there will be a few sons, daughters and such to come after us. That’s nice. But what happens after the breeding season/years are over? Isn’t there time then for us? It seems to me that that is when we should be able to have the time and opportunity for us oldies to enjoy what’s left of our years in carnal bliss. But it doesn’t happen that way, does it? A time without one of the little darlings waking up and crying for a glass of water at just the wrong moment or having one of the kids busting in the bedroom door just as the earth is about to move. All during the child rearing years, isn’t that what we dreamed of? To have a time just for us.

Well, it doesn’t seem to happen that way. The kids are gone, the house is quiet and there’s just the two of you. Open that bottle of red, put on the soft music, something by Tom Jones or Frankie, say. And whisper those loving words; “lover, come sit on the couch next to me.” Hah! The timing is perfect; she has started the first stage of the ‘I’m too hot’ period. Don’t tell me Mother Nature didn’t plan it that way.

‘Too messy.’ A good excuse and, considerate me, I can understand it. Well, not really, but ...

‘I have a headache.’ Yeah, but you said that last night and again this morning.

At that point we men are sure to ask ourselves, is that all there is? No more lick and tickle? No more tease and ... well, whatever your idea of fun is? Is that all? It’s over?

Dear friends, that is when we men become invisible. The females walk on by; they pay no attention to us. We are no longer eligible as mates. We no longer have a value. If they do happen to see us it’s only because they need something, a refill of their drink or to fix the funny sound the car is making. No longer as someone to spend a few hours of “slap and tickle” with.

Here I am, slightly past the big 7-0 in numerical age. Do you think I can interest any female in my age group in sharing a long dreamed of experience? Nope. What, you don’t believe me? Go ahead; try to open an account at one of the many internet dating sites. Put in your correct birth year and see how many women respond. 65? Maybe one or two ... and they are not looking for sex, just “companionship” ... whatever that means. 70? You’ll not get one response.

At my advanced years I still like sex ... or at least I think I do. I still have desires ...unfulfilled desires. There are things I’d like to experience that I couldn’t in the earlier years. Okay, so where are the women with the same searching needs? Mother Nature has taken all that away from them. There ain’t gonna be no more kids, not from these kinds of bedroom fun and games so there is no need for any of that kind of messy stuff.

Thank you, Mother Nature, I really, really appreciate it. Really I do.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tired of paradise, so what do I do?

Now I ask you ... what the hell would you do?

Another day, another dollar ... and the rate exchange hasn't worked in my favor for a loooooooong time. Probably because of sunspots.

So what does one do when he lives in paradise and is tired of the place? Well mostly it's that I've had enough of it, but there is also a smidgen of I simply can't afford it anymore. But I don't want to admit that, so I'll just say I've outgrown paradise. That's what everyone around this part of Queensland claims: well, just another day in paradise, they'll say. Shall we go to the beach today, or just sit around the riverside watching the girls walk by.

Everybody girl watches ... guys do for lustful reasons and other girls do so they can compare. I was told that once and of course I believe it. Personally, I like to watch people and can I help it if half of them are women?

To be honest, I really don't watch men unless they are on the other side of the net and I'm in some kind of competition. Tennis, you know. The sport of gentle people. We smile, we say sorry when we don't mean it and we always shake hands after a set.
You know why we shake hands, don't you? So all the players know the set is over. Finally. But I like tennis ... play social tennis three or four times a week. Used to play competitively with the Over 70s crowd but I've always disliked being that tightly scheduled. Have a match tonight? Oh, damn and I wanted to go down to the beach and girl watch.

So I live near the beach. On the fly leaf of my latest novel I claim living in a cottage near the beaches of Queensland. Well, I'll be honest with you ... I live in a small two-bedroom shack a couple miles from the surf. And that's close enough. Is that a lie, saying that on the fly leaf? If so, so what? I'm of the school that says that all books are fiction. Well, there is one exception that I've come up with and that's the dictionary. Every other book ever published, in my view, is fiction. And what is fiction? A tale of entertaining lies that the author made up.

But I'm serious about being tired of living in paradise. Can you believe it? Tired of living in almost perpetual sunshine, blue skies, lots of bright colored birds, the warm Pacific Ocean to swim in and lots of girls wearing only the bottom half of their bikinis. Oh, woe is me. Must be something wrong.

But the point of all this is to let you know, I'm going to move.

Yeah, soon, too. Once this real estate deal goes through, I'm packing everything in a rented truck and driving south. Gonna get some use out of those long-sleeved shirts and Levi's I brought with me when I moved down here ten years ago. No more shorts, sandals and T-shirts. Back to having four distinct seasons and a woodbox filled with firewood next to the fireplace. Yeah.

So I ask you ... what would you do?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The novelist's lament, Chapter One

Okay, now I understand ...

Yeah, like most great discoveries, it has taken some time but I finally figured it out. The only requirement for someone to become a literary agent or even a publisher is total ignorance.

Haven't we all heard ... those who can do, those who can't teach. Well, those who can't write good crime novels become publishers. Or agents. Why? So they can reject the work of others, of those who can.

Now let's be clear on this. I have been able to get a number of my stories published. Actually I'm well past the point of getting tickled when I see someone check out one of my books from the library.

There are a number of high points in being a writer. One is in creating the characters and bringing them to life. Those folk can then do all the things the writer never was able to. With crime, for example, I can kill those that need killing. All I have to do is give my protagonist reason for doing it. And then, of course, it's up to me to figure out a way for him to get away with it. But that's part of the fun, too.

Coming up with the characters, giving them problems to solve, getting them into dire danger and then saving them, and all the time writing the story so the readers will enjoy it. Great fun!

And, looking back, I have given talks on writing fiction and how to get things published. So you could say I have taught. But I haven't stooped so low as to become a publisher. Or an agent. So very low.

Well, thinking back to my favorite lecture, I have to admit to having addressed the joys of writing and the chances of getting everything, or anything, accepted. As I recall it goes something like:

Fiction in print is relatively popular, but only relatively. For every reader you might attract, TV or films or recordings attract thousands of consumers. You will work for months or years to create a product that is theoretically eternal, but in practice has a shelf life of a few weeks. Most of your readers will, two months after reading your work, be unable to recall anything about the story (including your name) — maybe not even whether they liked it or not. To add pain to this, know you will reach more readers with a punchy, witty letter to the editor of a big city daily than you're likely to reach with your novel. And the pay won’t be that much less!

Now here is something for anyone hoping to get a literary agent to look at their work. These numbers are from a US based literary agent …

20,800 (Estimated number of queries read and responded to)
54 (Number of full manuscripts requested and read)
8 (Number of new clients taken on this year)
21 (Number of books sold this year—not counting subsidiary rights stuff)
6 (Number of projects currently under submission)

So, taking all that into account, I guess I'll build a bridge and get over it ... get past having a damn good story knocked back and get on with the next one.
Damn fool publishers, anyhow.

Thank you for letting me blow off steam ... I have to go hang out the wash, now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now here's a question looking for answers ...

Let me ask you; are Australians so different from Americans when it comes to their sex lives?

This question came up when I read an article on the results from a recent AARP survey about the sexual habits of Americans over the age of 50. AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons, a highly politicized organization open for a nominal annual membership fee to anyone 50 years or older.

In the interest of fairness I’ll admit that once, a couple lifetimes ago, for a brief time I was a member. About six month, as I recall, until I found myself disagreeing with the club’s lobbying efforts on something I didn’t like in Congress. Yes, AARP is almost as powerful as the gun lobby when it comes to working on the Washington, D.C. power structure.

But that has nothing to do with this survey, does it. With a membership base in the multi-millions such questionnaires usually get a huge response. I don’t know how many people answered the survey questions, but that doesn’t really matter either. My reason for sharing what I got from the results is to give you something to think about. Here are my comments on parts of it.

Let me begin by saying I wasn’t able to get the entire survey although I hit the website address a couple times. No worries. I took enough from articles on the results to make this interesting. I hope.

First off, the numbers and percentages when it came to such things as oral sex, sex for men or women over 70, and things like that, will not be part of the discussion. Even the subject of same-sex sex was reported on only briefly. However, a few things that did interest me. One of these was the point that of those responding, more than half were married and only 5% were not but were in a committed relationship. Makes me wonder, do married people like to talk about their sex lives more than others?

Three percent of the respondents marked the single and aren’t dating box and a whopping ten percent of the singletons were actively dating. Again, maybe only married people are having sex. I could make a personal comment on that but I won’t.

Don’t forget, these numbers and percentages are all from the US. It is possible that below the equator things are different.

Going back to the 54% married group, more than half said their partners were “imaginative about sex.” Not having any information about oral sex, s/m, bestiality or really any kind of sex, we don’t know what that means, do we. Imaginative about sex. Maybe this is a good place to explain my belief that whatever it is, it’s only kinky the first time.

Here’s an interesting statistic; even with 30% bragging about their partner being imaginative, 46% said they were less satisfied with their sex life that they were ten years ago. Wow. Well, that goes to prove that the young get and enjoy more sex than us oldies. Again, I won’t give a personal editorial on that fact.

Something else that makes me wonder about those 30% people, and I have to assume they know who they are, more than twice that number said they never discussed their sexual fantasies with their partners. Again, wow. Does that mean everything in bed for these people is just guess work? Or maybe I’m the only person in the world, or the US at least, who has that type of fantasy. Oh, you did know that I am American by birth, didn’t you? Well, let me tell you, even back then, when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I had wondrous sexual fantasies. Did I share them with my wives and/or lady friends? You bet.

But now I am an Aussie and my passport proves it. Do I share now? Not going to say. After all, we’re talking about a survey of US people.
Okay, back to business. Of those taking part in the survey, eight percent of the men and two percent of the women said they have a same-sex partner. It is possibly more, in real life, I don’t know. It is also possible that gay people don’t like to talk about their sex lives.

Anyone reading any of my earlier lectures knows I have a real interest in men, and especially women, who are in or near my age group in so far as their sex lives are concerned. In the US, between 2004 and 2009, the percentage of people in their 50s who say they have sex at least once a week dropped 10% for both sexes. For women the percentage went from 43 to 32 percent. For men it was 49 to 41. Most other age groups reportedly saw a drop in the frequency of sex too, so it wasn’t just that group. Think about it, does your sex life fit this trend?

The AARP survey indicated that people aren’t real happy about it, either. It found that 43% of older Americans say they are satisfied with their sex lives, down 51% in 2004, while the percentage of those who are dissatisfied increased. No numbers on exactly how many, but dissatisfied is dissatisfied.

Why, you wonder. Well, prudishness might be a factor. But then take into account that the number of Americans in the 45 age group believing only married people should have sex years old has plummeted., from 41% in 1999 to 22% in 2009. Americans are, take my word for it, a lot more prudish than Aussies … or on second thought, no they aren’t.

Okay then, what is the root cause? Well, money worries sap sex and with the recent world financial crisis, local unemployment and growing chance of foreclosures in the US, it’s quite likely that everyone up in the big country has money worries

Enough of that, let’s talk a bit about everyone’s permanent sex partner, the one we’re all born with … self-love. For men it’s old Lady Palm and her five daughters. (I heard that description when I was young and na├»ve and never forgot it. It took a long time for me to understand it, but I still remember it.)

Nearly a quarter of all Americans 45 years old said they engage in what was called in the survey “self-stimulation” weekly. That figure was nearly the same as compared to six years ago. It isn’t surprising, to me anyhow, that men are more devotees of this practice than women. I don’t know why I think that but I do.

Among people in their 50s, about 42% of men and 15% of women say they indulge, whether “about once a week” or “more than once a week.” Interesting, don’t you agree? Wonder where you fit in this category.

A little more on the sex lives of those funny Yanks – single Americans in the 45 group who are dating have more sex than their married counterparts. And from all indications, have a better love life all around.

It was shown that 48% of singles with regular partners have sex at least once a week, compared to only 36% of married folks. It’s no surprise, I suppose, that sixty percent say they are satisfied with their sex lives while 52% of their married friends make the same claim. Nineteen percent of the single-but-not-dating crowd said they were sexually satisfied. Now that makes me wonder.

Oh, and how about cheating on your partner. Just under a quarter of the men taking the survey admitted they cheated during a current or recent long-term relationship. For women the number was 11%. When asked about their partners, 12% of both men and women said their partners cheated. That seems to me to indicate that women are a bit more optimistic about their men’s whereabouts at times.

So what damage did all this cheating cause to the relationship? Not much, apparently. About 40% of the respondents reported it had no effect at all while another 30% thought it caused only temporary tension. A mere handful, 6% or less, said it was a fatal blow.

More than half of the females, 60%, said their stepping out had no effect on their relationship. Nine percent of those commented that it made their sex lives worse. Things were a little different among the men, though. Just under a quarter, 24%, say it had no impact on the relationship and 40% indicated it made their sex lives worse. I suppose there’s a lesson in that, but somehow I can’t quite see what it is. Did I ever cheat? Uhmmmm.

So what is this all about that I’m writing about it? Go back to my opening question: are people up there in the states different than your true-blue Aussie when it comes to sex? In the years I’ve been living down here in the Land DownUnder, I have been lucky enough to share a sexual relationship of one sort or another with … well, not a large enough percentage of Australian women for me to know.

Guess I’ll have to work on that, or wait until the AAPR, the Aussie Association of Retired People, conduct a national survey.

Anyone would like to comment on this, or any of my rantings, are more than welcome. I'm just not sure if this is a good idea, opening that door, but let's try it.

And a good day to you, too ...

Let me introduce myself, and take a moment to explain why I'm wasting my time with this.

First off, I qualify for the grumpy old man badge of distinction. I'm a tad over 70 and tired of it. Oh, not tired to the point of wanting to change it. Hell no, there's only one way to do that and I still got a couple adventures left in me.

That's the way I see life, as a series of adventures. But in recent times I've begun to notice things that don't please me at all. These are the bits and pieces I'm writing about in this blog. The title was, until I noticed it was too long for the good people who set it up for me, The Old Man's view of the world and other things worth complaining about. Or something like that.

Okay. There you have it, my beginning. What's that? You want to know about me? Why? If you read any of the comments I'll be adding to this you'll find out more than you need to know. So there.